Farming News - Can we really save the planet (from a farming perspective)?

Can we really save the planet (from a farming perspective)?

The South of England Agricultural Society’s 2023 Farming Conference will take place on Wednesday 1st November, at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex.

Led by BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith, this year’s event will take a new approach – an interview with two exceptional guests rather than presentations - delving deeply into whether we can save the planet (from a farming perspective) or if it’s too late. The traditional close to the conference will remain, offering time for audience questions, input and debate.

Talking about this year’s subject, Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield Scholar sponsored by the Society, and chair of the conference organising committee, said: “I don’t think anyone can argue that climate change isn’t making its consequences felt across the farming sector. From changing weather patterns to increasing society demands to farm more sustainably, the impact is palpable.”

Rawson added:

“Agriculture is firmly in the sights of many as the cause of many of the problems we face when it comes to climate change and environmental loss, and to be fair, to a large extent, they’re right. We’re now reaping the impacts of decades of government policies incentivising production at the expense of the environment. However, it is often said that whilst the industry is a major contributor to climate destruction, it potentially provides many of the answers too. That by changing farming practices, and doing things differently, we can save the planet and feed an ever-demanding population to boot.” 

“But is that true, or is it too late? Everyone is talking about carbon zero, but is it achievable? We talk about biodiversity loss, but isn’t the damage done irreversible now? Can we shed our reliance on artificial fertilisers when we have an obligation to provide affordable food to a growing population?”

“The Society firmly believes the future is bright, but we also need to be realistic, which is why this conference and debate, at this time, is so important.”

This year’s guest speakers are Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of independent charity the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission (FFCC), and Phil Jarvis, Chair of Albanwise Farming and Environment.

Sue's diverse career spans leadership, strategy, culture, and change. She has been a consultant, coach, researcher, and writer and held positions as a non-executive director and chair of a local health board in Wales. With affiliations at esteemed institutions like Salford University, Leeds University, Ashridge Business School, and University College London, she drives significant systems change through collaboration with public and private organisations, leading complex projects. She is an Independent Governor at the Royal Agricultural University, a CoFarm Foundation Trustee, and sits on several academic advisory boards. Sue manages a Soil Association-accredited organic livestock farm in Monmouthshire, prioritising conservation-focused farming.

Phil is a Professional Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management and chairs Albanwise Farming and Environment, overseeing Norfolk and Yorkshire estates. Their arable rotation includes sugar beet, cereals, oilseed rape, maise, and potatoes, while Albanwise Environment manages diverse habitats such as wetlands, woodland, hedgerows, and peatland. Phil leads the Voluntary Initiative, championing the best plant protection product use delivered through Integrated Pest Management. He was formerly Head of Farming, Training, and Partnerships at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's Allerton Project. Phil's agricultural engagement includes National Farmers Union roles and completing an MSc in Sustainable Agricultural Management. He also served on the BBSRC Agriculture and Food Security Strategy Advisory Panel.

 * The Farming Conference will run from 7pm-9pm on Wednesday 1st  November 2023 (6pm-10pm if attending in person including pre- and post-event refreshments and networking opportunities). The conference is FREE to attend, in person or online, but visitors must register at